Mastery - Robert Greene

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Rated: 10/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 0670024961

Related: The 50th Law, The Art of Seduction, 48 Laws of Power

Summary

One of my favourite books ever.  The best book I’ve ever read on how to master a craft, and full of great advice on how to navigate life, your career, and learning, on your path to achieving some level of mastery in your field.

The book details every step along the way from figuring out what it is you’re meant to do - your “Life’s Task” - to how to learn quickly, and the necessary auxiliary skills (ex: Social Intelligence) to succeed.

Highly recommend the book for anyone seeking to figure out their career, how to learn best, and ultimately, how to become successful.

Notes

Introduction

  • Masters excel because of their ability to practice harder and move faster through the process, all stemming from the intensity of their desire to learn and from the deep connection they feel to their field of study.

  • Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers.

  • First, you must see your attempt attaining mastery as something extremely necessary and positive.

  • Second, you must convince yourself of the following: people get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life.

 

I: Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task

  • You possess an inner force guiding you towards your Life’s Task - in childhood this was clear, and directed you towards activities and subjects that fit your natural inclinations.

  • 3 steps to realizing your Life’s Task: connect with your inclinations, look at the career path you are on or beginning, and view your path as a journey with twists and turns, rather than a straight line (choose a field or position that roughly corresponds to your inclinations).

Strategies for Finding Your Life’s Task:

  1. Return to your origins - look for your early childhood activities and inclinations.

  2. Occupy the perfect niche - choose a rough area that interests you, look for side paths that interest you, and continually move towards a narrower niche.  Alternatively, blend two distinct areas of expertise that compliment each other.

  3. Avoid the false path - actively rebel against forces pushing you down a path for the wrong reasons (money, fame, attention, parental expectations, etc.).

  4. Let go of the past - don’t be tied to a particular career or position, but rather be committed to your Life’s Task, wherever that may take you.

  5. Find your way back - make public your return to your path, so that it becomes a matter of shame and embarrassment to deviate from this new path.

 

II: Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

  • After your formal education, when you enter a new career or acquire new skills, you enter a second phase of learning called The Apprenticeship.

  • The goal of apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title or a diploma, but rather learning.

  • This has a simple consequence: you must choose places of work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning.

  • You must think of three essential steps in your apprenticeship: Deep Observation (the Passive Mode), Skills Acquisition (the Practice Mode) and Experimentation (the Active Mode).

  • Keep in mind this can come in different forms - at one place, several positions, a mix of graduate school and practical experience, etc.

  • Step One: Deep Observation - The Passive Mode

    • Observe the rules and procedures that govern success in this environment, and observe the power relationships in the group.

    • Do not make the mistake of imagining you must get attention, impress people, or prove yourself in this stage.

  • Step Two: Skills Acquisition - The Practice Mode

    • As much as possible, reduce the skills to something simple and essential - the core of what you need to get good at, skills that can be practiced.

    • It remains that we learn best through practice and repetition.

    • First, it is essential that you begin with one skill that you can master, and that serves as a foundation for acquiring others. You must avoid at all cost the idea that you can manage learning several skills at a time.

    • Second, the initial stages of learning a skill invariably involve tedium. Yet rather than avoiding this inevitable tedium, you must accept and embrace it. The pain and boredom we experience in the initial stage of learning a skill toughens our minds, much like physical exercise.

    • It is better to dedicate two or three hours of intense focus to a skill than to spend eight hours of diffused concentration on it.

    • Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confidence in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings.

  • Step Three: Experimentation - The Active Mode

    • As you gain skill and confidence, you must make the move to a more active mode of experimentation.

    • The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.

    • When we work with our hands and build something, we learn how to sequence our actions and how to organize our thoughts. In taking anything apart in order to fix it, we learn problem-solving skills that have wider applications. Even if it is only as a side activity, you should find a way to work with your hands, or to learn more about the inner workings of the machines and pieces of technology around you.

Strategies for Completing the Ideal Apprenticeship

  1. Value learning over money.

  2. Keep expanding your horizons - reading books and materials that go beyond what is required is a good starting point.

  3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority - when you enter a new environment, your task is to learn and absorb as much as possible.  For that purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling of inferiority.  You are full of curiosity.

  4. Trust the process - push through the point of frustration, trust steady practice to get you through lows.

  5. Move towards resistance and pain - be your own worst critic, resist the lure of easing up on your focus, and push towards raising your own standards of excellence.

  6. Apprentice yourself in failure - act on your ideas as early as possible, expose them to the public, and be prepared to fail.  Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.

  7. Combine the “how" and the “what” - take the extra effort to learn how things are done, not just how they appear, and gain a deeper understanding and feeling for the whole.

  8. Advance through trial and error - learn as many skills as possible, but only related to your deepest interests.  Find out what work suits you, and what doesn’t.  Be comfortable proceeding based on what you like, and when you are ready to settle, ideas and opportunities will present themselves to you.

 

III: Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

  • The mentor-protégé relationship is the most efficient and productive form of learning. The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you. Their knowledge and experience become yours. They provide immediate and realistic feedback on your work, so you can improve more rapidly.

  • Understand: all that should concern you in the early stages of your career is acquiring practical knowledge in the most efficient manner possible. For this purpose, during the Apprenticeship Phase you will need mentors whose authority you recognize and to whom you submit.

  • The reason you require a mentor is simple: Life is short; you have only so much time and so much energy to expend. Your most creative years are generally in your late twenties and on into your forties.

  • The best mentors are often those who have wide knowledge and experience, and are not overly specialized in their field—they can train you to think on a higher level, and to make connections between different forms of knowledge.

  • You will want as much personal interaction with the mentor as possible. A virtual relationship is never enough.

Strategies for Deepening the Mentor Dynamic

  1. Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations - pick mentors who fill your needs, or what your parents didn’t.

  2. Gaze deep into the mentor’s mirror - choose a mentor who will give you tough love, reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and accustom yourself to criticism.

  3. Transfigure their ideas - learn from your mentors, listen, but cultivate some distance by altering their advice to fit your own inclinations and style.

  4. Create a back-and-forth dynamic - once you have gained respect for each other by being coachable and open to learning, give them feedback on their instruction, helping each other learn even faster.

 

IV: See People as They Are: Social Intelligence

  • Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible.  Being able to smoothly navigate the social environment gives us more time and energy to focus on learning and acquiring skills. Success attained without this intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.

  • Social intelligence involves getting past our tendency to idealize and demonize people (naive) and instead getting inside their world and seeing and accepting them as they are (realistic).

  • Train yourself to pay less attention to words, and more attention to tone of voice, the look in their eye, their body language.

  • Initial impressions are often misleading.  Pay attention to general patterns as well, how they dress, their organization, extreme examples of behaviour, and how they behave over time.  

  • Continually adjust your reading of people.

General Knowledge - The Seven Deadly Realities

  • There are patterns of negative human behaviour which each of us usually have part of: Envy, Conformism, Rigidity, Self-obsessiveness, Laziness, Flightiness, and Passive Aggression.  Understand how to spot and avoid triggering these.

    • Envy: it is natural to compare ourselves to others, but too much praise or friendliness can indicate envy.  

      • To avoid triggering, if you have a gift for a certain skill, make a point of displaying weakness in another area - self-deprecating humour is good for this.

    • Conformism: groups tend to trigger this.  If you have a rebellious streak, be careful not to display your difference too overtly.

    • Rigidity: we often default to habits or routines to counter the complexity of daily life.  

      • Accept the rigidity of others, but for yourself work to maintain your open spirit, get rid of bad habits, and continue to cultivate new ideas.

    • Self-obsessiveness: when you need something from someone, appeal to people’s self-interest, and get used to looking at the world through their eyes.

    • Laziness: we all tend to want the quickest, easiest path to our goals, but we generally try to control our impatience.

      • Be prudent and keep your ideas close so they can’t be stolen, and secure credit in advance as part of teams working together.

    • Flightiness: we like to think we are rational, but we are largely governed by our emotions.

      • Never assume that what people say or do in a particular moment is part of their permanent desires.  Focus instead on their consistent actions.

    • Passive aggression: the root cause of this is human fear of direct confrontation, and the emotions and loss of control conflict can cause.

      • Focus only on the actions of others, and avoid those passive-aggressive warriors full of insecurities at all costs.

Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence

  1. Speak through your work - be efficient, detail-oriented, and make what you write or present clear and easy to follow, and this will show your care for the audience or public at large.

  2. Craft the appropriate persona - people will judge you based on your outward appearance - be aware of this and plan for it.

  3. See yourself as others see you - look at negative events in your past and dissect these occurrences.  What patterns can we observe that reveal flaws in our character?  Seek opinions from those you trust about your behaviour as well, and begin to cultivate the ability to see yourself as you really are.

  4. Suffer fools gladly - they are simply part of life, like rocks or furniture.  Smile at their antics, tolerate their presence, and avoid the madness of trying to change them.

 

V: Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

  • As you accumulate skills and your mind becomes more active, you must avoid becoming conservative and fitting with the group.  Instead, become increasingly bold and begin to experiment, reforming the rules of your field.

  • Masters not only retain the spirit of the Original Mind, but they add to it their years of apprenticeship and an ability to focus deeply on problems or ideas. This leads to high-level creativity.

  • To awaken the Dimensional Mind and move through the creative process requires three essential steps: first, choosing the proper Creative Task, the kind of activity that will maximize our skills and knowledge; second, loosening and opening up the mind through certain Creative Strategies; and third, creating the optimal mental conditions for a Breakthrough or Insight. Finally, throughout the process we must also be aware of the Emotional Pitfalls—complacency, boredom, grandiosity, and the like—that continually threaten to derail or block our progress.

  • Step One: The Creative Task

    • The task you choose must have an obsessive element - it must connect to something deep within you.

    • If you are excited and obsessive in the hunt, it will show in the details. If your work comes from a place deep within, its authenticity will be communicated.

    • This applies equally to science and business as to the arts.

    • There are two things to keep in mind: First, the task that you choose must be realistic. The knowledge and skills you have gained must be eminently suited to pulling it off.

    • This is a corollary of the Law of the Creative Dynamic—the higher the goal, the more energy you will call up from deep within.

    • Second, you must let go of your need for comfort and security. Creative endeavors are by their nature uncertain.

    • Think of yourself as an explorer. You cannot find anything new if you are unwilling to leave the shore.

  • Step Two: Creative Strategies

    • Think of the mind as a muscle that naturally tightens up over time unless it is consciously worked upon.

    • A. Cultivate Negative Capability - truly creative people can temporarily suspend their ego and simply experience what they are seeing, without the need to assert a judgement, for as long as possible.

    • B. Allow for Serendipity - expand your initial search into adjacent fields, maintain an openness and looseness of spirit, and engage in activities outside your work.

      • To help yourself to cultivate serendipity, you should keep a notebook with you at all times. The moment any idea or observation comes, you note it down. You keep the notebook by your bed, careful to record ideas that come in those moments of fringe awareness—just before falling asleep, or just upon waking. In this notebook you record any scrap of thought that occurs to you, and include drawings, quotes from other books, anything at all. In this way, you will have the freedom to try out the most absurd ideas. The juxtaposition of so many random bits will be enough to spark various associations.

    • C. Alternate the Mind Through the Current - observe things in the world and find things that strike attention, think about them and perhaps conduct experiments.  Doing this repeatedly will yield insights.

    • D. Alter Your Perspective - train your mind to look at things from multiple perspectives, and break outside of the typical patterns.  The following are several common patterns and how to subvert them:

      • Looking at the “what" instead of the “how”: pay greater attention to the relationships between things, instead of focusing on what you see initially.

      • Rushing to generalities and ignoring details: our minds often generalize - to counter, focus on details, not the big picture, and then work back towards the larger idea.

      • Confirming paradigms and ignoring anomalies: anomalies usually contain the richest information, so do not ignore or explain them away.

      • Fixating on what is present, ignoring what is absent: our natural tendency is to focus on positive information.

        • As you work to free up your mind and give it the power to alter its perspective, remember the following: the emotions we experience at any time have an inordinate influence on how we perceive the world. If we feel afraid, we tend to see more of the potential dangers in some action. If we feel particularly bold, we tend to ignore the potential risks. What you must do then is not only alter your mental perspective, but reverse your emotional one as well.

        • For instance, if you are experiencing a lot of resistance and setbacks in your work, try to see this as in fact something that is quite positive and productive.

        • If you see setbacks as opportunities, you are more likely to make that a reality.

    • E. Revert to Primal Forms of Intelligence

      • Use diagrams, images, and models to help you reveal patterns in your thinking, or new directions to follow.

  • Step Three: The Creative Breakthrough

    • You will encounter a time where you become frustrated and realize you are getting nowhere.  At this point, you must let go, and then get back to work with deadlines, forcing yourself to push through, and the mind will reach the level you need.

  • Emotional Pitfalls

    • The following are the six most common pitfalls that threaten us along the way:

      • Complacency: after we develop some skills, we take things for granted.  Constantly remind yourself how little you truly know.

      • Conservatism: if you gain attention or success for your work, this will naturally occur.  Make creativity rather than comfort your goal, and continue to be bold.

      • Dependency: you relied upon mentors and those above you to supply standards of judgement.  Develop the ability to see your own work with some distance, and judge the public’s reactions carefully.

      • Impatience: you will convince yourself that your work is essentially over and well done; instead, cultivate a kind of pleasure in pain, like an athlete, enjoying practice, pushing past your limits, and resisting the easy way out.

      • Grandiosity: praise generally does harm.  There are always greater geniuses out there than yourself, and luck played a role. What must ultimately motivate you is the work itself and the process.

      • Inflexibility: avoid emotional extremes, and find a way to feel optimism and doubt at the same time.

Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase

  • The following are nine different strategic approaches to the same goal from the stories of nine Masters:

    • 1. The Authentic Voice
      • Understand: the greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash.
      • What happens in such a case is that you do not master the basics; you have no real vocabulary at your disposal. What you mistake for being creative and distinctive is more likely an imitation of other people’s style, or personal rantings that do not really express anything.
      • The best route is to follow Coltrane and to love learning for its own sake.
    • 2. The Fact of Great Yield
      • Instead of beginning with some broad goal - a business, an invention, a problem to be solved - go in search of great yield, empirical evidence that is strange and does not fit the paradigm, and yet is intriguing.
      • Although you are beginning in a particular field, do not allow your mind to become tethered to a discipline.  Instead, read from many different fields, and look for interesting implications and anomalies in others that have implications in your own field.
    • 3. Mechanical Intelligence
      • The principles behind mechanical intelligence can be summarized as follows: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself.
      • Separating out the work will make you lose touch with its functionality. Through intense labor on your part, you gain a feel for what you are creating. In doing this work, you see and feel the flaws in the design. You do not look at the parts separately but at how they interact, experiencing what you produce as a whole. What you are trying to create will not magically take off after a few creative bursts of inspiration, but must be slowly evolved through a step-by-step process as you correct the flaws.
    • 4. Natural Powers
      • Build into the creative process an initial period that is open-ended. 
      • Have wide knowledge of multiple fields.
      • Never settle into complacency, as if your initial vision represents the endpoint.
      • Finally, you must come to embrace slowness as a virtue in itself.
      • Imagine yourself years in the future looking back at the work you have done. From that future vantage point, the extra months and years you devoted to the process will not seem painful or laborious at all.
    • 5. The Open Field
      • All fields have a way of thinking or acting that becomes a paradigm that people forget the initial reasons for.
      • To break out, begin by looking inward for something you want to express. Let the idea take root, and consciously decide to play against the conventions, and find the things you want to change or get rid of.
    • 6. The High End
      • In order to learn a subject or skill, particularly a complex one, we must immerse ourselves in many details, techniques, and procedures that are standard for solving problems.  If we are not careful, however, we get locked into seeing every problem the same way using these techniques.
      • To counter, make sure you keep a sense of the larger purpose and goal behind your work.
    • 7. The Evolutionary Hijack
      • Oddly enough, they discovered that what really makes successful entrepreneurs is not the nature of their idea, or the university they went to, but their actual character—their willingness to adapt their idea and take advantage of possibilities they had not first imagined. This is precisely the trait—fluidity of mind—that Graham had identified in himself and in other inventors. The other essential character trait was supreme tenacity.
      • The lesson is simple—what constitutes true creativity is the openness and adaptability of our spirit. When we see or experience something we must be able to look at it from several angles, to see other possibilities beyond the obvious ones.
      • The difference then is not in some initial creative power of the brain, but in how we look at the world and the fluidity with which we can reframe what we see. Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.
    • 8. Dimensional Thinking
      • You are not in a hurry.  You look at the object of study from as many angles as possible, giving your thoughts added dimensions. You assume that the parts of any whole interact with one another and cannot be completely separated.
      • In your mind, you get as close to the complicated truth and reality of your object of study as possible.
    • 9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious
      • To imagine that something can be intellectual and sensual, pleasurable and painful, real and unreal, good and bad, masculine and feminine is too chaotic and disturbing for us. Life, however, is more fluid and complex; our desires and experiences do not fit neatly into these tidy categories.
      • Your task as a creative thinker is to actively explore the unconscious and contradictory parts of your personality, and to examine similar contradictions and tensions in the world at large. Expressing these tensions within your work in any medium will create a powerful effect on others, making them sense unconscious truths or feelings that have been obscured or repressed.
  • Understand: to create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great discipline, self-control, and emotional stability. It requires mastering the forms of your field. Drugs and madness only destroy such powers.

  • When you look at the exceptionally creative work of Masters, you must not ignore the years of practice, the endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured. Creative energy is the fruit of such efforts and nothing else.

 

VI: Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

  • All of us have access to a higher form of intelligence, one that can allow us to see more of the world, to anticipate trends, to respond with speed and accuracy to any circumstance. This intelligence is cultivated by deeply immersing ourselves in a field of study and staying true to our inclinations, no matter how unconventional our approach might seem to others.

  • Through intense absorption in a particular field over a long period of time, Masters come to understand all of the parts involved in what they are studying. They reach a point where all of this has become internalized and they are no longer seeing the parts, but gain an intuitive feel for the whole. They literally see or sense the dynamic.

  • The ability to have this intuitive grasp of the whole and feel this dynamic is simply a function of time.

  • It is not a matter of studying a subject for twenty years, and then emerging as a Master. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.

  • The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don’t simply absorb information—we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use. We look for connections between the various elements we are learning, hidden laws that we can perceive in the apprenticeship phase. If we experience any failures or setbacks, we do not quickly forget them because they offend our self-esteem. Instead we reflect on them deeply, trying to figure out what went wrong and discern whether there are any patterns to our mistakes.

  • Understand: this intuitive form of intelligence was developed to help us process complex layers of information and gain a sense of the whole. And in the world today, the need to attain such a level of thinking is more critical than ever before. To follow any career path is difficult, and requires the cultivation of much patience and discipline. We have so many elements to master that it can be intimidating. We must learn to handle the technical aspects, the social and political gamesmanship, the public reactions to our work, and the constantly changing picture in our field.

  • We must learn how to quiet the anxiety we feel whenever we are confronted with anything that seems complex or chaotic.

  • To go along with this self-control, we must do whatever we can to cultivate a greater memory capacity—one of the most important skills in our technologically oriented environment.

  • The problem that technology presents us is that it increases the amount of information at our disposal, but slowly degrades the power of our memory to retain it.

  • To counteract this, in our spare time we should not simply look for entertainment and distractions. We should take up hobbies—a game, a musical instrument, a foreign language—that bring pleasure but also offer us the chance to strengthen our memory capacities and the flexibility of our brain.

Strategies for Attaining Mastery

  • Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge. But there is another element, an X factor that Masters inevitably possess, that seems mystical but that is accessible to us all.

  • And so inevitably, these Masters, as they progress on their career paths, make a choice at a key moment in their lives: they decide to forge their own route, one that others will see as unconventional, but that suits their own spirit and rhythms and leads them closer to discovering the hidden truths of their objects of study. This key choice takes self-confidence and self-awareness—the X factor that is necessary for attaining mastery.

  • The following are examples of this X factor in action and the strategic choices it leads to.  The examples given are meant to show the importance of this quality and how we might adapt it to our own circumstances.

    • 1. Connect to your environment—Primal Powers
      • Understand: the ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us. We gain such power by first transforming ourselves into consummate observers. We see everything in our surroundings as a potential sign to interpret. Nothing is taken at face value.
      • To become such sensitive observers, we must not succumb to all of the distractions afforded by technology; we must be a little primitive. The primary instruments that we depend on must be our eyes for observing and our brains for analyzing.
    • 2. Play to your strengths—Supreme Focus
      • There are many paths to mastery, and if you are persistent you will certainly find one that suits you. But a key component in the process is determining your mental and psychological strengths and working with them. To rise to the level of mastery requires many hours of dedicated focus and practice. You cannot get there if your work brings you no joy and you are constantly struggling to overcome your own weaknesses. You must look deep within and come to an understanding of these particular strengths and weaknesses you possess, being as realistic as possible. Once you start in this direction, you will gain momentum. You will not be burdened by conventions, and you will not be slowed down by having to deal with skills that go against your inclinations and strengths. In this way, your creative and intuitive powers will be naturally awakened.
      • Understand: achieving mastery in life often depends on those first steps that we take. It is not simply a question of knowing deeply our Life’s Task, but also of having a feel for our own ways of thinking and for perspectives that are unique to us.
    • 3. Transform yourself through practice—The Fingertip Feel
      • In our culture we tend to denigrate practice. We want to imagine that great feats occur naturally—that they are a sign of someone’s genius or superior talent. Getting to a high level of achievement through practice seems so banal, so uninspiring. Besides, we don’t want to have to think of the 10,000 to 20,000 hours that go into such mastery. These values of ours are oddly counterproductive—they cloak from us the fact that almost anyone can reach such heights through tenacious effort, something that should encourage us all.
    • 4. Internalize the details—The Life Force
      • You must see whatever you produce as something that has a life and presence of its own. This presence can be vibrant and visceral, or it can be weak and lifeless.
      • Seeing your work as something alive, your path to mastery is to study and absorb these details in a universal fashion, to the point at which you feel the life force and can express it effortlessly in your work.
    • 5. Widen your vision—the Global Perspective
      • In any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail. The reason is simple: such a person will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing.
    • 6. Submit to the other—The Inside-out Perspective
      • Understand: we can never really experience what other people are experiencing. We always remain on the outside looking in, and this is the cause of so many misunderstandings and conflicts.
      • Through continual exposure to people and by attempting to think inside them we can gain an increasing sense of their perspective, but this requires effort on our part.
    • 7. Synthesize all forms of knowledge—The Universal Man/Woman
      • Aspects of technology now offer unprecedented means to build connections between fields and ideas. The artificial barriers between the arts and the sciences will melt away under the pressure to know and to express our common reality. Our ideas will become closer to nature, more alive and organic. In any way possible, you should strive to be a part of this universalizing process, extending your own knowledge to other branches, further and further out. The rich ideas that will come from such a quest will be their own reward.

REVERSAL

  • The reversal to mastery is to deny its existence or its importance, and therefore the need to strive for it in any way. But such a reversal can only lead to feelings of powerlessness and disappointment. This reversal leads to enslavement to what we shall call the false self.
  • Your false self is the accumulation of all the voices you have internalized from other people—parents and friends who want you to conform to their ideas of what you should be like and what you should do, as well as societal pressures to adhere to certain values that can easily seduce you. It also includes the voice of your own ego, which constantly tries to protect you from unflattering truths.
  • Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within. Everyone has such inclinations. This desire within you is not motivated by egotism or sheer ambition for power, both of which are emotions that get in the way of mastery. It is instead a deep expression of something natural, something that marked you at birth as unique. In following your inclinations and moving toward mastery, you make a great contribution to society, enriching it with discoveries and insights, and making the most of the diversity in nature and among human society. It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.
  • Your true self does not speak in words or banal phrases. Its voice comes from deep within you, from the substrata of your psyche, from something embedded physically within you. It emanates from your uniqueness, and it communicates through sensations and powerful desires that seem to transcend you. You cannot ultimately understand why you are drawn to certain activities or forms of knowledge. This cannot really be verbalized or explained. It is simply a fact of nature. In following this voice you realize your own potential, and satisfy your deepest longings to create and express your uniqueness. It exists for a purpose, and it is your Life’s Task to bring it to fruition.

Read the book notes for The 50th Law - Robert Greene and 48 Laws of Power - Robert Greene.